Some experts claim stock buybacks may increase income inequality, employment instability and reduce productivity overall, encouraging a boom-and-bust economy. There have even been calls for open-market stock buybacks to be banned.
The company buys shares of its own stock at the market price, thereby reducing the number of shares that are outstanding. Since the value of the company stays the same, the result of a buyback is usually an increase in the share price.
Are buybacks bad?
Share buybacks can create value for investors in a few ways: Repurchases return cash to shareholders who want to exit the investment. With a buyback, the company can increase earnings per share, all else equal. The same earnings pie cut into fewer slices is worth a greater share of the earnings.
The effect of a share buyback is that there will be fewer shares after the buyback is completed. This may sound like a very obvious statement — after all, if a company has 1 million outstanding shares and buys back 50,000 of them, it will have 950,000 outstanding shares after the buyback is completed.
The main reason companies buy back their own stock is to create value for their shareholders. In this case, value means a rising share price. Here’s how it works: Whenever there’s demand for a company’s shares, the price of the stock rises.
How do you profit from stock buybacks?
In order to profit on a buyback, investors should review the company’s motives for initiating the buyback. If the company’s management did it because they felt their stock was significantly undervalued, this is seen as a way to increase shareholder value, which is a positive signal for existing shareholders.
Companies do buybacks for various reasons, including company consolidation, equity value increase, and to look more financially attractive. The downside to buybacks is they are typically financed with debt, which can strain cash flow. Stock buybacks can have a mildly positive effect on the economy overall.
Contrary to the common wisdom, buybacks don’t create value by increasing earnings per share. The company has, after all, spent cash to purchase those shares, and investors will adjust their valuations to reflect the reductions in both cash and shares, thereby canceling out any earnings-per-share effect.